For 160 skilled carpenters, building the chariot for the car festival (rath yatra) is a labour of love. They do not want to disclose how much they earn from it.
For generations they have been doing it out of just devotion.
In Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath, the three gigantic chariots for Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra start moving on rath yatra.
Every year the chariots are made of new wood, brought from a forest in Daspalla in Nayagarh district, 87 km from Bhubaneswar.
The raw wood is then converted into 2,184 pieces of various shapes and sizes. Everything needed for the chariots, including the wheels and the exquisite statues, are made out of those pieces.
Chief carpenter Bijay Kumar Mohapatra said: “No metal is used in the chariots. Even the nails are made of wood.”
The three chariots together have 42 wheels of seven double-spokes each. However, the heights of the chariots vary.
Nandighosha, Lord Jagannath’s chariot, is the tallest, 45 feet, with 16 wheels. Taladhwaja, Lord Balabhadra’s chariot, is 44 feet high with 14 wheels. Darpadalana, Devi Subhadra’s chariot, is 43 feet high with 12 wheels.
The chariots are decorated with arches, statues and horses – all made of wood.
“It is a wonder how the carpenters make the huge, intricately decorated wooden cars in just one and a half months,” said Raji Solanki, a pilgrim from Gujarat.
Puri Collector and Additional Administrator of Jagannath Temple F.C. Satpathy said: “Preparations are going on at full speed. Everything will be ready on July 12.”
After rath yatra, the wood used in the chariots is sent as firewood to the temple kitchen for preparing mahaprasad (offering to God) for the whole of next year.